Six Members Selected For The Wall Of Honor
The Centralia Community Youth Center (CCYC) and the Centralia Chapter of the NAACP have joined together in a joint effort to honor individuals in the City of Centralia and the surrounding community that have made a difference within our community.
Individuals honored will be presented to the public on February 14, 2016 at 3 p.m. At the youth center located at 1224 E. Rexford St. in Centralia. Honored individuals will receive a wall plaque in honor of the recognition and a plaque will be mounted on the Wall of Honor at the Centralia Community Youth Center.
The individuals selected for the honor will be recognized from one of the following categories: Business Development, Community, Youth, Education, Employment, Political, Religious.
Vernell Burris, the late Doris Clark, Willie Lawson, Warren Clevenger, Harry Duncan, and Bobby Joe Mason were selected to be the newest inductees into the Wall of Honor. Each of the newest inductees will be formally inducted at a reception on Sunday, February 14, 2016 at 3 p.m. at the Centralia Community Youth Center.
Vernell (Tinky) Burris
Vernell (Tinky) Burris has been a long time community activist in the city. He has addressed many issues involving the city school politics and has entered into various city political races. He has been a long time member of the NAACP and worked alongside Willie Lawson, Doris Clark and Warren Clevenger for increased opportunities in employment, education and the political arena, with the city and surrounding areas,. He was actively involved in the building of the Centralia Community Youth Center for the children of Centralia and is a very active member of the Second Baptist Church where he works with the brotherhood, the culinary crew, transportation staff and the church anniversary committee. He has been very active in the community with help to those that are in special need. He is a 20 year veteran of the United States Air Force and is very active in many of the local veterans affairs.
Doris Jean Clark was a devoted special education teacher in the Centralia school system for over 21 years. She supported educational programs on all levels for all students all over the state of Illinois and in particular in Southern Illinois. She was a personal mentor to many local young people.
Doris was born and raised in Centralia and spent her lifetime here except for a three year period when she was with her husband Elliott while he served his country. Doris’s husband Elliot and daughter DeeDee still reside in the area, along with her brother Bennie Upchurch and many family other members. Her daughter Sharon lives in northern Illinois.
As a resident of the City of Centralia, Doris has served in many different capacities. She was the first black Centralia City Councilwoman, she has presided as president of the NAACP, served on the Child Welfare Club, Centralia Education Association, chairperson of BCMW board, was a member of the Pink Lady Auxiliary at St. Mary’s Hospital. She was a volunteer for the Cancer Society, served on the Centralia Housing Task Force, and in The Salvation Army. Her biggest project before her untimely death was working to allow family members easier methods of locating family member’s burial sites by naming all the roads in Elmwood Cemetery.
CCYC and the NAACP congratulate Ms. Clark and her family for her contributions to the city and youth of Centralia.
Willie Lawson (November 16, 1934 – March 23, 2007) was a longtime community activist and leader. He was an “in your face” kind of person in that if he was fighting for something that was right he would make his voiced known and heard, and back up his fight with evidence, facts and additional information, He was a longtime member of the state NAACP leadership as well as the president of the Centralia branch. He fought a number of battles in Centralia, Southern Illinois and the State of Illinois for employment in what were once banned employment unions for minorities. He obtained educational employment opportunities in various trade unions, entrance into recreational facilities, movie theaters, and other areas that were once banned for minorities and youth.
Willie played an integral part in getting the operation and funding for CCYC and for the children of the northeast section of Centralia and the City of Centralia. He continued his involvement in the Center until his death.
Willie was married to Brenda (Wesley) Lawson and they had two children, Evelyn Michelle and Marlon. He and his entire family, including his mother and brothers, were members of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.
Warren Clevenger was an actively involved member of the Centralia branch of the NAACP and served as an officer for many years. He was also active at the national level, attending state and national events and meetings. He traveled all over the state of Illinois and into many Southern Illinois communities seeking the rights of many minorities, He and the late Willie Lawson would travel together, or Mr. Clevenger would travel by himself to tackle problems dealing with injustices or racism, and he became very vocal when addressing other areas of concern.
As an officer of the local branch of the NAACP he was a leader in maintaining the membership of the local chapter and events that the local chapter organized and presented to the community. He was a staunch advocate for equality for all people and was a historian on the history and development of the NAACP. He, Doris Clark and Willie Lawson took on many battles to get jobs for minorities in many fields that had been denied them for many years. He was often referred to as the white man that knew and helped to develop and maintain the local branch of the NAACP.
Harry Duncan was very involved in the activities of many of the youth of Centralia for many years. From the 1950s through the late 1980s, Duncan was involved in Little League baseball, Boy Scouts and other activities. He could be seen supporting all of the youth in Centralia. A number of his teams were champions in many areas, and he demanded excellence and respect. He was also a mentor to many young people even after he stopped coaching and leading youth organizations. You could find him talking to and encouraging young people from all over, His Boy Scout troops were always top scouting groups in Southern Illinois. He instilled a great work ethic into young people and was fondly known in the community as “Cousin Harry,” “Brother,” or “Mr. D.”
He served as a member of the Marion County Board and the Centralia Airport Authority Board for a number of years along with many other youth boards and city organizations, Harry was a family man who lived most of his life in the city of Centralia with his wife Muzette and two sons, Harry and Robert. They were members of the Second Missionary Baptist Church and were involved in many of the activities within the church that included youth groups and other groups and church organizations. He touched many lives with his kindness, wisdom, wit, and sense of direction, but most of all his love for the youth of the community.
Bobby Joe Mason (Bobby Joe Mason Foundation)
Bobby Joe Mason was born and raised in Centralia and attended the Centralia City Schools and Centralia Township High School. As a high school student, he was an outstanding athlete that set many records in his four years. After high school, he attended Bradley University where he again found success as an outstanding athlete. After college, he was drafted by the L.A. Lakers but chose to continue his playing days with the Harlem Globe Trotters rather than the NBA. He was a member of the Traveling Trotters for over 14 years, traveling to the far corners of the globe to entertain the youth of the world. He was an ambassador for young people, giving of himself his time and advice just to encourage young people. After retirement, he became a fixture in the capitol of Illinois, Springfield, mentoring the youth of Springfield and many of the youth in Centralia. He was best known for letting young people know they could achieve anything in life if they set their sights on it.
Bobby has two daughters and two brothers.
The Bobby Joe Mason Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organizati